Tel: +86-29-88609367
Home > News > Content

Process Industries Market Analysis

In 2011, the combined market segments of both electronic and mechanical technologies generated over $2.5 billion in revenues worldwide.

We expect increasing demand for level measurement and inventory tank gauging technologies as companies use these tools to improve operational efficiencies, increase productivity, gain greater control over inventories, and achieve enhanced accuracy. VDC is forecasting a 5.2% CAGR through 2016, reflecting total shipments of almost $3.3 billion, comprising thirty-four different technology segments (shown in the table in Figure 1).

Figure 1. Technology segments for process level measurement and inventory tank gauging

Electronic Process 

Level Measurement

Mechanical Process 

Level Measurement

Electronic Inventory 

Tank Gauging

Mechanical Inventory 

Tank Gauging

Capacitance/RF admittance

Diaphragm

Capacitance/RF admittance

Float (single-point)

Conductive

Displacer

Hydrostatic Tank Gauging

Float (multipoint)

Hydrostatic pressure

Float (single-point)

Magnetostrictive

Float and tape

Laser

Float (multipoint)

Radar (noncontact) marine

Paddlewheel

Load Cell

Hydrostatic pressure

Radar (noncontact) non-marine

Weight and cable

Magnetostrictive

Paddlewheel

Radar (contact)


Microwave/Radar (noncontact)

Tilt

Sonic/ultrasonic


Microwave/Radar (contact)

Weight and cable

Servo


Nuclear




Optical




Sonic/Ultrasonic




Thermal




Vibration




Of the $3.3 billion market opportunity, more than 88% represents electronic process level measurement and inventory tank gauging systems, of which electronic process level devices will make up 83% of that 88% share (Figure 2). Feedback received by VDC indicates that users are increasing their reliance on electronic process level and tank gauging systems to provide access to real-time information, typically connected to IP-based networks via a fieldbus or Ethernet application-layer network protocol, and thereby enabling greater automation, flexibility, and agility in operations and/or greater accuracy for custody transfer and inventory storage and control.

Within the process level measurement market, shipments of continuous level measurement devices will remain more than 3.3 times larger, on a dollar volume basis, than those for point measurement devices despite the fact that the market for point measurement devices is experiencing faster growth, driven by the increased need for safety systems and overfill protection. Continuous level measurement is required in a larger number of applications and the devices used to serve those applications are far more expensive than point level devices.

For those devices that include network connectivity, users are relying on a number of different wired network interfaces, including HART, Modbus, Profibus, and Foundation Fieldbus, to provide real-time data for greater flexibility, operational agility, and actionable information in decision-making. A growing number of users are increasing their reliance on wireless networks such as Wireless HART because of the resulting reduction in cable costs and maintenance, increase in mobility and flexibility, ability to operate in areas previously not accessible via cables, greater scalability, and ease of installation. Within the electronic process level measurement technology market, the largest share of shipments—more than 33% in 2016—will be for hydrostatic pressure transmitters, despite the robust growth in the use of microwave/radar (contact and noncontact) devices. The persistent dominance of hydrostatic level sensing can be attributed to a number of considerations, such as low product and/or maintenance cost, ease of installation, ruggedness, proven reliability, broad media compatibility, as well as user familiarity.

Regardless of the attributes that matter most to the end user, for a new level sensing technology to gain significant traction, it must optimize the mix of price, performance, and operation to offer a credible alternative to the venerable hydrostatic level sensor in an array of mainstream applications. The prevailing strategy of targeting only those applications where hydrostatic sensors don't work is both limiting and shortsighted. A microwave/radar level gauge as a drop-in replacement for a side-mounted hydrostatic level transmitter is not feasible, but it should be possible to achieve some degree of equivalency for other key characteristics. Hydrostatic level sensor emulation should be a priority for any supplier seeking to realize greater success in the process level marketplace.

Noncontact, microwave/radar marine and non-marine inventory tank gauging systems form the bulk of the electronic inventory tank gauging market, representing almost 59% of the overall total in 2011. Demand for these radar devices, which are perceived to offer greater performance and higher accuracy, is expected to drive their share to 61% of the overall electronic tank gauging market by 2016. Demand for the radar units designed for use in non-marine tank gauging applications will be more robust because these units typically have much lower price points and can serve a broader range of applications.

Among the smaller market for mechanical process level measurement devices, the predominant technologies used are displacer transmitters and single-point float switches; combined, we expect these devices to represent almost 81% of the slower-moving mechanical market in 2016. Benefits of displacer sensing include simple control capability, easy set-point change, and the fact that the technology is well established in the gas and petroleum market. Its disadvantages include the fact that it can only be used for nonfreezing liquids, calibration is difficult, and it is susceptible to changes in specific gravity. Single-point float switches will remain the second most demanded mechanical system used because of the technology's simplicity, lower price points, and ease of use. The market for multipoint float switches is growing but is expected to remain a fraction of the market, despite greater performance and product improvements.

Among the smallest markets for mechanical inventory tank gauging (ITG), the dominant technology will continue to be single-point float ITG devices. Rising oil prices are driving increased investment in oil and gas exploration and production, which in turn requires more storage and greater inventory gauging accuracy, especially for custody transfer applications. The marine segments (which mainly involve transporting gas and/or petroleum) and the gas and petroleum segments combined represent more than 74% of overall shipments. Single-point float ITG devices will remain the dominant choice due to their adequate accuracy, lower costs, ease of use, and user familiarity.

Many end-user markets use one or more of the thirty-four process level measurement and/or inventory tank gauging technologies under study. Figure 3 lists the industries that consume these technologies, based on 2011 dollar volume shipments and ranked from highest to lowest consumption.

Figure 3. The largest consumers of process level measurement and/or inventory tank gauging systems, ranked in descending order

Electronic Process 

Level Measurement

Mechanical Process 

Level Measurement

Electronic Inventory 

Tank Gauging

Mechanical Inventory 

Tank Gauging

Gas and petroleum 

(including refineries)

Gas and petroleum 

(including refineries)

Gas and petroleum 

(including refineries)

Marine

Chemical

Electric power

Marine

Gas and petroleum (including refineries)

Water/wastewater

Chemical

Petrochemical

Food and beverage

Electric power

Food and beverage

Chemical

Chemical

Petrochemical

Petrochemical

Electric power

Petrochemical

Food and beverage

Marine

Food and beverage

Electric power

Pharmaceutical

Water/wastewater

Water/wastewater

Water/wastewater

Marine

Plastics

Pharmaceutical

Pulp and paper

Aggregates

Aggregates

Pulp and paper


Mining

Pharmaceutical



VDC has determined that certain technologies are better suited for particular applications, based on factors such as environmental operating conditions (e.g., harsh or hazardous environments), price/performance, accuracy requirements, and network connectivity requirements. For example, a supplier of a noncontact microwave/radar device will be less likely to market this technology for water/wastewater applications because these are more likely to already be using hydrostatic and/or sonic/ultrasonic systems. The majority of devices used in marine applications were likely used in shipping gas and petroleum; combined, the marine and water/wastewater segments represent the bulk of inventory tank gauging system shipments.